The Arab spring: A fourth wave of democratization?
Between 1974 and 1990, over 30 countries in southern Europe, Latin America, some parts of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa made transitions to democracy, nearly doubling the number of democratic governments in the world. Samuel Huntington described this global shift as "Democracy's Third Wave" in an article published in 1991, which was later developed in a book titled The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century. In these two works, he discusses the causes, features, and transition processes of the third wave of democracy and examines its prospects for sustainability and possible expansion in a nondemocratic world. He argues that the first and second democratic waves "were followed not merely by some backsliding but major reverse waves during which most regime changes throughout the world were from democracy to authoritarianism" (Huntington, 1991a). He also addresses the causative factors of this reverse wave in some countries, and he claims that the third wave of democratization that swept the world in the 1970s and 1980s might become a dominant feature of Middle Eastern and North African politics in the 1990s. The delay in this prophecy for two decades motivates us to question whether the Arab Spring is part of Huntington's third wave of democratization or a new fourth wave of democratization, or even a false start to democracy, as described by Larry Diamond (2011). The purpose of this article is to examine the causes, features, and transition processes of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen in correlation with Huntington's theorization on the third wave of democratization which, along with other available literature in the field, will be combined in a theoretical framework that will enable us to discuss the abovementioned elements of the Arab Spring through the lens of the third wave of democratization. Special attention is paid to the question of whether the Arab Spring falls into the framework of Huntington's theory, or whether it can be classified as a new fourth wave of democratization in countries that have unfavorable environments for democracy. The first part of this article highlights the causative factors that eased the emergence of the third wave of democratization in different parts of the world. The second part provides a historical overview of the major events of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, while the third and fourth parts analyze the causes, features, and transition processes of the Arab Spring from Huntington's third wave perspective. 2016 Policy Studies Organization.
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